Peeblesshire Beekeepers Association

Apiary Visits

Apiary Visit 10th September Report

Richard L and Peter went to the apiary on Sunday 10th September.

The weather hadn’t looked promising but it was actually fine and even sunny while we there.

The guys doing the walling were also there and had reached the section where the storage huts are. They needed to get their scaffolding in at the wall. So with their help, we shifted the huts to behind the line of hives and repacked the contents. Very kindly they offered to do the bulk of the heavy lifting and we didn’t argue too much!

There are only 2 hives in the central area with bees now and we topped up the feeders on both. One had a super on which we removed along with the used up MAQ’s strips. This one had quite a large varroa count which is hopefully still mites falling from the treatment. All the hives need to be checked for varroa now and judged to see what treatment they are going to get. The third active hive was in at the wall. Since the wallers were actively working here and had the compressor going adjacent to the hive we didn’t open this one up. Peter may go back and check this one if there is a warm evening this week.

The walling work may be completed this week and the guys have just worked around the bees, so in the end there wasn’t any need to relocate the hives. Longer term, it would be nice to find out more about the plans for the walled garden but at the moment this information is hard to come by.

News from the out apiary at Merlindale – Peter went out to Dankas on Saturday. The 2 association hives are doing very well. One which had no laying queen has brood again now and plenty bees. There are also good stores and we left the super on that one. The other hive which has still a huge amount of bees had also filled the best part of 2 supers. We took one of these off for association honey and left the remaining one for the bees. We moved Dankas colony from the association hive into her own poly hive and were amazed at how much brood and bees there were. All were good tempered with us although they had disgraced themselves earlier by stinging the gardener who had been strimming in front of the hives. He wasn’t too put out fortunately and will take some more precautions the next time.

Finally thanks to Brian for the photos taken earlier in the season and I’ll post some more of these in due course.

At work in the apiary.

A shallow frame has been in the brood box.

Apiary Visit 10th September

Apiary meeting this Sunday 2pm, even if the weather is poor – Peter will be there for a short time only, to check the colonies, re-organise hive 1 (if weather isn’t too bad), feed hive 2, and possibly do some anti-varroa treatment.

If you need to borrow a beesuit, please contact Peter.

There will be no apiary visit on 17th.

Information about the winter programme will follow shortly.

Heather Picnic Report 27th August

A fine end of season visit was had to Jock and Wilma’s heather apiary.

View of the apiary

Although it was sunny just half a mile down the valley, it was rather overcast as the first hive was opened.

If you have a coloured folder you’re in charge!

However the bees were happy enough (at first) and we had a good look at how the colonies were faring on the hills.

A brood frame

As usual, young Sam was keen to get involved.

At the heather

The hives were doing well and the honey crop was coming on with some frames fully capped.

A good frame of heather honey

We discovered some unexpected queen cells that might have been supercedure.  A quick split into a nuc was demonstrated very proficiently by Wilma.

The bees were getting livelier as we made our way around. Some were doing Nasonov fanning at the entrance.

Nasonov fanning

Others were dancing on the entrance board. Keep an eye on the bee in the centre of the video.

The bees were getting a bit feisty, and that was a problem for the person who had a hole in his veil!

Pesky bees

Time to retire, in time-honoured beekeepers style, for cups of tea, cakes, salad, sausage rolls, biscuits, mead and best of all fresh pancakes with honey straight off the frame.

Honey Picnicers

So all in all an enjoyable day out to end the season.

Many thanks to Wilma and Jock for hosting.

Heather Picnic 27th August

The now traditional PBKA picnic at Jock and Wilma’s heather site in the Manor Valley. Meet 2pm

We will see how the bees are getting on foraging on the heather moor.

It’s a lovely spot so bring a small contribution and with a bit of luck we can enjoy an end of summer picnic.

Contact Mandy for directions if you don’t know the way or want to car share.

Apiary Visit 20th August Report

Apiary visit 20th August.

Must be holiday time! It was a relief to get some warm dry weather at last, and a chance to go through the hives. Mandy, Claire and Shirley checked out the reduced number we have now (mostly due to relocation, and nucs going out to this year’s beginners), every colony different, so it turned out to be a useful teaching session.

The small nuc near the wall was coming on well, had filled 4 frames, so we put it into a proper hive. An empty hive was placed just in front of it, then Claire and Shirley transferred the frames. The bees were somewhat confused to start with, then settled down. They didn’t seem short of stores (given their size – they’d been fed generously until a fortnight ago) and with the weather forecast to improve, they were safe to forage for themselves without extra feeding.

Hive 1 had created a new queen in late June, after the queen and some frames of bees were removed to create a nuc. We hadn’t seen any brood on the last 2 inspections, and this time no brood again, but lots of drones and scattered drone brood, so we suspected a drone-laying worker (as some were above the queen excluder). In this situation, the colony is effectively a write-off without a queen, but the remaining bees can be used to boost another colony. A frame of eggs and brood was inserted from hive 3, to boost the worker numbers, and attract any remaining workers to a single frame, then the nuc was opened up again, and a “paper marriage” carried out. Paper was laid across the frames in the nuc’s brood box, holes made in the paper, and hive 1 was placed on top. The scent from the 2 colonies should slowly mingle, and the 2 lots of bees should combine without fighting.

This colony (next to the storage unit) will need re-assembling within a week, and fed syrup until the remaining combs in the brood box have been drawn out.

Hive 2 was in a sorry state – no brood was seen in the previous inspection (it needed to make a new queen after frames were removed to create a nuc): this week a full super of honey had gone, still no brood visible, but no drone brood either, so probably the queen is still here. This been a difficult summer, with some colonies running out of food. Hopefully this is what’s happened here – the queen is still present, but not laying due to lack of food. Easily remedied, we hope, with lots of feeding. Syrup was put on the hive – this will need checking within a week, and more syrup added as needed.

Hive 3: had had a very heavy varroa infestation: this had been treated about 3 weeks ago (MAQ strips) with spectacular results – heaviest mite fall I’ve ever seen. This week – with the MAQ strips still present – there was still a mite drop, but probably only a Daily Mite Drop (DMD) of about 4. The strips were left in place. The colony only had 3 frames of stores in the super, so a feeder and syrup was added, to let them get started and help boost the last of this summer’s foraging. The queen was laying well, with plenty of brood, larvae and eggs seen.

The last colony to check was a swarm collected this summer: it was very strong at the last inspection, and this time it had obviously outgrown its five-frame nuc box, so was swiftly transferred to a proper hive. A feeder and syrup was added to help them drawn out the additional 6 frames they now had. As there was only a small amount of syrup left, this colony (closest to the trees) will need feeding again before the weekend.

This visit – with so much variability between only 5 colonies – serves as a reminder not to take anything for granted, to check colonies for stores, look out for robbing by wasps of other bees, check the mite drop and work out the end-of-season varroa treatments.

The heather probably has only a week or so left (it opened 7-10 days early this year), so there will be little forage about except for rosebay willowherb, possibly dandelions if they get a chance of a second flowering, and Himalayan Balsam. The latter is an invasive alien, so probably its only fans are bees who relish the copious nectar, but don’t seem to like the white pollen. When they’ve been working the Himalayan Balsam they come back powdered with white pollen (“ghost bees”) that they don’t bother gathering onto their pollen baskets.

Winter bees: colonies are starting to raise the bees that will take them right through the winter, instead of having the 6-week lifespan of the summer bees. Make sure that all colonies have plenty of food at this stage, to secure the colony strength through the winter and into spring.

This year’s honey crop looks likely to be very poor: it will be interesting to see how much heather honey comes in.

Apairy Visit 30th July

Sunday 30th July: apiary visit – although the forecast doesn’t look good so far. If weather permits, we’ll be at the Association apiary 2-4; if we have to cancel I’ll email at 11am, and will try to arrange a midweek visit instead.
As usual, please wear clean beesuits, gloves etc (let me know in advance if you need to borrow one), and perhaps bring some refreshments to share.


Apiray Visit 16th July 2017

Summary of apiary visit 16th July 2017

Apiary 16th July

Hive 1: 16th July was the earliest day we could expect the new queen to lay, but there were no eggs or larvae yet – check again next week. A large number of drones were present; bees seemed calm.

Next time: check for eggs/larvae – if new queen seen, mark her. Check for stores, pollen being brought in. Consider adding a frame of eggs if no sign of a laying queen.

Hive 2: the queen had been removed on 6th June to create a nuc: stores were OK, no eggs or larvae seen yet, bees seemed calm. Check again next week.

Next time: check for eggs/larvae, a laying queen. Consider adding a frame of eggs if no sign of a laying queen.

Hive 3: a high mite drop again; but excellent brood pattern, this hive would be a good source of eggs for hives 1 or 2, if need be – hopefully it won’t be necessary, as that would then mean 3 of our hives were from the same genetic line, which could be a bit risky. Syrup added as stores were running low, and it has a large population to feed.

Next time: Peter Stevenson volunteered to treat the hive with MAQ during the week. Check mitre drop.

Hive 6: at a new location – checked by Peter and David

Doing well – brood at all stages on 7-8 frames. Plenty stores. Bees calm. Primed queen cells noted. Needs to be inspected again soon.

Hive 7: at a new location – checked by Peter and David

No brood apart from 2 sealed and  possibly unsealed queen cells noted. 1 sealed cell knocked down to reveal a developing queen. Very puzzling!

2 frames of brood with eggs taken from Hive6 and given to Hive7 on either side of the Queen cell – all marked by pins. Intention to slow down development of hive6 to discourage swarming and to check for queenlessness in Hive 7.

At least one nuc yet to be created from these hives: reserved.

(The empty hive 7 is with AC for cleaning, along with 3 empty nuc boxes)

Swarm 1 was bought and taken away by Duncan on Monday

Swarm 2: put in brood box, and syrup feed added.

Next time: check if ready to go.

Nuc 2: feed added, quite a small colony, only on 2 frames, but sealed worker brood seen, it should continue to build up. Continue to monitor and feed as necessary.

Nuc 3: bought and taken away by Ilknur and Brian.

Kailzie colonies: all doing well, 2 nucs available, a further nuc reserved.


Colonsay native honeybee colonies have been relocated; both have developed chalkbrood, possibly an indication that the previous location had insufficient forage and was too damp.

They seem to be thriving at their new site.

A further nuc at AC’s apiary, ready to go.

One of the nucs has been reserved by Em and Kelly, the other by Fiona MacAuley: this leaves potentially 3 nucs available.

For the next apiary visit: more record sheets needed; syrup needed; feeders have been taken away for cleaning and need to be returned. Syrup needed for small nuc.

There have been many reports from local beekeepers about problems of getting new queens established, and of queenless colonies rejecting both frames of eggs, new queens and even queen cells. For some reason it seems to be taking longer for queens to start laying.

Apiary Visit 25th June 2017

2017 06 25 Apiary visit

Only 3 this time: Mandy, Julia and Shirley. Anne had hoped to come, but a puncture en route meant she didn’t make it. Still, a very useful session, lost for the beginners to see, they both handled the bees and had plenty of questions to ask. And many thanks to Shirley for the lovely cake!

Hive 1: no brood, a large number of drones and many queen cells – most open, a couple torn down, and one resealed. Bees were quiet but seemed happy, so assumed they had a queen that was not yet laying: the super beneath the brood box was removed, all the bees brushed gently into the brood box, to which (just in case) a frame of eggs was added from the large well-established swarm. Two old frames were replaced with fresh foundation, then the supers were replaced – one was full, one had drawn comb, and another super was optimistically added on top. (Well, the lime should be starting mid-July – they have enough stores to last till then.)

Next time: no further disturbance for 3 weeks please! Daily mite drop: 0.5

Hive 2: The brood box was not disturbed, as waiting for a new queen to start laying. It had a brood box above the excluder in the hope that this would be drawn out as a supply of drawn comb, but the bees (after 4 weeks) had declined to do this, so it was removed. The super above it was almost full, so another super was added. DMD: 0.8

Next time: check for brood/eggs. Mark queen if seen.

Hive 3: a frame of irregular comb was moved to the edge of the brood box – this should be removed and replaced as soon as the brood has hatched. A queen excluder was added.

DMD: 3.2

Next time: replace malformed brood frame if possible.

Hive 5 and 6 are away from home at the moment – last inspected 17th June, so looking for volunteers to go out and check them up.

Swarms and nucs:

Swarm 1 on 9 frames (one removed to go into Hive 1): this swarm will go to a new home shortly, prepare for moving.

Swarm 2: needs to go in a brood box next time. Check syrup, add queen excluder and feed.

Sterilise a new brood box and fill with frames, ready for use.

Nucs 2 and 3 – both doing well, but still only on 2 or 3 frames.

Check syrup, replace feeders on both to keep mould-free.

Apiary Visit Sunday 25th June


… apiary session should be on as usual, weather permitting – if we have to cancel then I’ll email by 11am, so please keep an eye on your emails.

We’re short of mentors for the next couple of weeks, so if anyone is able to come along and help, please let me know asap. I’m volunteering and I’ll be there – but I’ll need a lift,, so if anyone can offer, that would be great!

Guests are welcome of course – if anyone will need a beesuit then please let me know and I’ll bring one. There’ll be time afterwards for a chat, catch up and refreshments, so if you can bring a contribution that would be most welcome.
See you there,

Apiary Report 14th June

Apiary visit 14/06/2017

Poor weather had postponed the usual Sunday visit to a Wednesday. Mandy Clydesdale with 2 of this year’s beginners (Ilknur, Mark and Mark’s son Benjamin) and turned up for what was hoped to be a brief session. Mark had just taken delivery of his own nuc of bees, so was anxious to get as much hands-on experience as possible.

By now all the colonies had swarmed or had been reduced in strength by creating nucs. However on arrival a quick check of the fir trees by the hives confirmed not just one but 3 swarms!

We had 2 nuc boxes ready on site, so by standing on a small stack of bee boxes, managed to get 2 of the swarms into boxes. (The third had to wait till a third nuc box could be got to the site, and a small team – Mandy, Linda and Wilma) was rounded up to deal with it that evening.

Hive 1: On a super, brood box, queen excluder and 2 supers. The bees were agitated but not aggressive: many drones were found above the excluder, so this might have been the reason for the agitation – the excluder was taken out and all the bees brushed off the supers into the brood box, then the hive was reassembled. Hopefully this will solve the problem. Three queen cells were seen – this was probably the source of at least one of the swarms. 2 queen cells were removed.

Next time: if possible remove the super that is beneath the brood box, or re-locate it to above the excluder.

Hive 2: On Brood box, excluder, super, brood box (to draw out comb – hadn’t obliged yet!)

The lower super was full of honey, but they hadn’t yet been tempted to draw out the comb in the higher brood box – it was left till the next visit. No eggs or young brood seen, but one recently hatched queen cell found at the base of a frame. One of the queen cells from hive 1 added, just in case. It was assumed that the hive had swarmed, and that the new queen was not yet laying.

Several of the sheets of foundation – all 4 of a dull brown colour – had not been touched at all – it seems the bees did not like them, despite some congestion in the hive. These frames were removed and replaced with frames with fresh foundation.

Next time: do not disturb for at least 2 weeks (ie after 1st July), then check if a new queen is laying.

If the foundation in the upper brood box has been drawn, remove and store for use in nuc/bait hives. (Check if it is the same dull brown foundation that the bees ignored in the lower brood box?) Add another super if needed. Check whether the bees have drawn out the clean foundation in the lower brood box.

Hive 3: the bees covered 7 frames in the brood box; a super was added, but it needs a queen excluder – none were spare at the time. Some frames of the comb were very irregular so were moved to the right hand side of the brood box, with the intention of removing it as soon as feasible (once brood has hatched). Queen not seen, but worker eggs and brood were seen.

Next time: add a queen excluder; remove right hand frame in brood box if possible and replace.

Hive 4: had died out. We were concerned about this colony for some time, but it has now died out (there were some spots of diarrhoea on the frames), with dead bees on the floor. It was next to the colony that succumbed to what we assume was nosema, so may have been infected via drifting. The hive was sealed to prevent bees from other colonies accessing it; the super was taken away to be cleaned, the brood box also needs to be taken away to be emptied and sterilised for re-use. All gloves worn by those handling this hive were immediately changed on site; hive tools had not been used.

There does not seem to be a permitted treatment for nosema, control is recommended to be “hygienic practices and requeening”. We have been very careful not to transfer frames between colonies, and any suspected infected hive is always the last in the list for inspection – hopefully this is an end to the disease.

Next time: bring away hive 4 for cleaning and sterilising.

Hives 5 & 6 have been relocated off-site in advance of the renovation works at the apiary.

Nucs and swarms:

The swarm (next to hive 4) was doing fine, 2 full frames of beautifully regular sealed brood. Same for the swarm in the hive at the front of the apiary: this one was due to go to one of our beginners, so we prepared it for moving with strap and travelling screen, and went over ways of blocking the entrance. Syrup was put on the swarms in their new boxes – they all seemed settled.

Next time: check the swarms have enough syrup, and see if any of them need transferring to a brood box.

The colonies seem to have built up well in the dry weeks of April and May, despite the cold start: it seems to have been a very swarmy year so far.

So this week’s mentored session covered collecting a swarm, transfer of queen cell, reminders about life cycles of all castes in a colony, finding eggs and young brood, checking nucs/swarms are queenright, checking for disease, isolation of a source of disease, preparing hives for moving – not bad!

So the summary for the next visit (due 25th June)

Hive 1: if possible remove the super that is beneath the brood box, or re-locate it to above the excluder.

Hive 2: DO NOT DISTURB till after 1st July, then check if a new queen is laying.

If the foundation in the upper brood box has been drawn, remove and store for use in nuc/bait hives. (Check if it is the same dull brown foundation that the bees ignored in the lower brood box?) Add another super if needed. Check whether the bees have drawn out the clean foundation in the lower brood box.

Hive 3: add a queen excluder; remove right hand frame in brood box if possible and replace.

Hive 4: bring away hive 4 for cleaning and sterilising.

Swarms and nucs: check whether the swarms in the nuc boxes need more syrup, and have enough room; move to a brood box if needed. Check that there’s a laying queen – in case some of the swarms are casts, headed by a virgin queen.